Presently, it is hard to come by a student of the University of Ghana bitterly complaining or expressing resentment at the inadequate residential facilities on campus, as compared to the previous academic years. Dare I say this situation has considerably risen, compared to previous academic years.
Indeed, the objectionable double-track system run by the University, and its accompanying asperities seems to come along with a remedy. The novel double-track modular system has afforded many students the opportunities of becoming residents, a luxury only a few students enjoyed during the single-track system.
It therefore appears that this has made members of the University community relaxed in our urge to push for the construction of more residential facilities on campus to significantly curb the perennial accommodation deficit.
We must be reminded that the double-track system is just an interim model adopted by the University Management to enable us to carry out academic work whilst minimizing the risk of spreading the Covid-19 on campus. Under such an extenuating circumstance, the University can be pardoned for implementing the ‘double track’ system this year. However, at an appropriate time, when normalcy is fully restored, the University will be expected to revert to the usual academic calendar.
When that happens, the good news is, we may not hear students complain about hectic and nerve-racking teaching and learning. On the negative side, we will be sent back to face the same challenge that has plagued the University for years; where we witness the troubling ordeals of newly admitted students whose exultation upon admission into the university gradually withers into frustration owing to the difficulty in securing accommodation.
Every freshman, upon admission and arrival on campus, expects a roof over his or her head, even before attending to activities linked to the university experience. For this reason, it is a requisite for public universities to provide ample accommodation facilities to shelter students.
I must concede that the University cannot provide residency for every student it admits. Nonetheless, it is important that a considerable number of students are accommodated on campus to avoid a situation, where a chunk of students will be tussling for a few available hostels and apartments outside the campus.
Unfortunately, UG has not been able to secure enough on-campus accommodation for students.
With the student population steadily rising, gaining accommodation on the UG campus has become a luxury for few ‘lucky ones. Numerous students are left in a state of mental agony and trauma as they struggle to get decent and affordable accommodation outside the campus. The situation is so terrible that even the implementation of the novel ‘double track’ modular system, has not entirely brought the situation under control, as there are quite a several students who have been unable to secure accommodation.
The Way forward
To increase the residential structures on UG campus, we must build more in addition to the already existing ones. Whenever pressure is mounted on the University to erect more residential facilities, some individuals contend that the available lands at the University campus must be reserved for academic and research purposes instead. I surmise these arguments are premised on the fact that the University is an academic community, and for that matter, needs to focus more on academic structures.
Nonetheless, this reasoning doesn’t suffice. The University has clearly stated her mission of creating ‘an enabling environment that makes University of Ghana increasingly relevant to national and global development through cutting-edge research as well as high quality teaching and learning’. The University’s aim of competing globally can barely be achieved if students are unable to attend lectures due to the distance from their homes to campus. Again, the mission of the university is defeated when the prevailing circumstance does not allow students frequent patronage of the facilities like the Library to assist them in their academic works. Let’s not forget those who struggle to study due to the trauma caused by the crises.
On a brighter side, there are already proposed residential projects yet to be started, which the University and the relevant stakeholders can fast-track their completion to curb the burden of accommodation deficit on campus. I earnestly suggest we harness our collective efforts to see to the speedy completion of the under-listed projects;
The SRC Hostel Project
An SRC Hostel can provide residency for students at affordable rates. The SRCs of some sister institutions have successfully put up their hostel facilities. I understand a piece of land has already been dedicated to the construction of this proposed facility on the UG campus. Unfortunately, none of the SRC administrations which assumed office after the proposal of this project have taken sufficient steps to see to the completion of the project. Notwithstanding, I believe this is a very good time to diligently work towards completing this project. Who knows, this can be a solid ground for regaining lost hopes and trust in the SRC.
The Commonwealth hall Annex Project
This project has sparked a whole lot of controversies and puzzling complexities that I would not like to say much about. All the same, a facility that can host over 4,000 UG students is undoubtedly a great deal. It would serve the best interest of the University community if matters could be settled immediately to ensure that this project sees rapid progress.
The accommodation crisis on the UG campus is very distressful. This challenge compromises the quality of education delivered by this noble institution. It is imperative for the University to address this issue as soon as possible, to resolve the anxieties of numerous students.
Long live the University of Ghana!!!
Author: Nathan N. Afari,
Commonwealth Hall JCR Secretary, 2020/2021.